Saturday, April 19, 2014

Jonathan bows to public opinion on N5000 naira note

Published:

Dr Goodluck Jonathan. President, Federal Republic of Nigeria.

President Goodluck Jonathan jettisoned his administration’s obstinate decision to go ahead with the planned introduction of the N5000 note and agreed with the leaders of the National Assembly on Tuesday, saying the proposal “can be reversed”.

Mr. Jonathan told Senate President, David Mark, and House speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, at a meeting, that any approval he gave for the printing of a N5000 note, and coins for lower denominations from N20 downward, can be suspended “since it is the wish of the people,” one of the lawmakers who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES said.

“The president gave the assurance and said it was the voice of the people,” the source said.

The meeting with National Assembly leaders held on Tuesday, hours after the two chambers of the National Assembly approved resolutions severely condemning the policy.

Though the Federal Government is yet to formally announce the reversal of the policy, PREMUM TIMEs learnt that marathon meetings were held, into Wednesday night, among ministers and top government officials; with Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, chairing most of them.

Efforts to get the presidency to state the reason for the reversal failed as Reuben Abati, Mr. Jonathan’s spokesman, did not respond to calls. Mr. Jonathan’s Special Adviser on Public Affairs, Doyin Okupe, also declined comment saying only Mr. Abati could respond.

We’ve not been briefed

The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, which is at the forefront of the policy said on Wednesday evening that it had not been briefed on the policy reversal.

“Nobody has informed us, we are not aware of any reversal,” the CBN Director of Communications, Ugochukwu Okoroafor, said.

Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala’s spokesman, Paul Nwabuikwu, also said he has not been briefed about the reversal.

The plan by the Central Bank to restructure the naira, with the N5000 as the highest denomination, has stirred intense controversy lasting weeks, with critics calling for its scrapping.

The Senate and the House of Representatives, in separate resolutions on Tuesday, criticized the CBN and the government for insisting that the plan should go ahead.

The two chambers called for immediate suspension of the introduction which is now to be reviewed by the House committee on Banking and Currency within four weeks.

The lawmakers said the policy breached relevant laws and will spiral inflation.

The meeting

Mr. Jonathan met with the two leaders of the legislature where he presented two issues , the festering budget implementation issue that has prompted impeachment calls from the House, and the currency restructuring.

At the meeting, official sources say, the president questioned the House summons to the finance minister to provide all information related to budget implementation, to which Mr. Tambuwal replied that the House was merely performing its obligations and not witch-hunting.

The House has announced it will be suspending plenary for a week to allow members undertake actual field assessment of the implementation level of the budget.

As part of the exercise, ministers and heads of departments are to provide financial information relating to receipts, and spending form the budget.

Mr. Tambuwal had said on Tuesday that the nation’s budget was fast becoming a “ritual,” that adds no value to the people.

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